What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Things that Make Me Smile

Last evening I was overcome by things that make me smile.  I was simply standing in my kitchen, and looked around and suddenly felt this overwhelming urge to smile and say "Thank You" to the Lord for all the good things He has done.

As I reflected back on the day and the week that has passed, joy filled my heart.  This little "Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly" caught my attention earlier in the day...actually there were many of them twirling around, sampling the nectar of any flower they could find...and danced their way merrily throughout the yard.  I tried to capture more pictures, but they would not be still long enough..so this one happy little lady will have to do.  Actually...there is more to this little butterfly than meets the eye. I was reminded early in the morning that this particular day was the birthday of a dear friend who had passed on to heaven almost two years ago...just before my own son also entered heaven's gates.  So I envisioned these butterflies as little messengers from heaven as they danced to and fro, letting me know that all is well...and that I need not be sad for them...

Thanksgiving and Christmas has come and gone, and it was a joyous time of blessing.

Our friends and families came together and we celebrated the fact that we could be together...and that we are healthy, strong, and doing well, all things considered.  God has been very gracious to us.

Our home Bible Fellowship ushered in the Advent season with the lighting of the Advent Wreath each week as we gathered to worship and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah...

and we had sweet fellowship around the table as well...
New friends and old...

During the past month we ate a lot of wonderful food... (and I'm feeling the effects of that now...)

 We spent time with my side of the family...

With my oldest brother and my sister...

And actually, not long before we had Thanksgiving with my next to the oldest brother and family as well...another blessing!
and also my husband's side of the family...

My cousin and wife visited all the way from Iowa...

 Much laughter and fun with brothers and sisters and cousins and friends and sons and nieces, nephews and families...

And then on Christmas Day with my husband's side of the family...again with friends, family, 

crazy brother in law, silly kids...

Happy times...joyous times...

My 92+ year old mother in law who could still be with us and enjoy this time with family...

We remembered loved ones gone on before us:

This picture of our son Matthew is on my refrigerator, and it always makes me smile 
as I remember him this way

Matthew's preschool stocking  on our tree, with a little boy angel ornament in memory of him...

And we talked to loved ones far away who couldn't be with us on Christmas
Our grandson Noah and his mother Nicole, in Maine on Christmas Day

Others things that make me smile:

Our Nativity...and the Baby Jesus...

The Christmas Tree
Our Front Porch and the lovely wreath sent to us from our kids in Maine...
"For Unto Us a Child is Born" sign created by my son

Our little "Baby Elva" doll, all decked out for Christmas.... a gift several years ago from a special friend...she always makes me smile....

Last year's Poinsettia planted and blooming...

Christmas Cactus blooming...

Early Camellia blossoms...

My hubby on Christmas morning as he was sharing with me just before we started opening our gifts how thankful he was for all the beautiful things God had done 

Our fun loving wonderful sons on Christmas morning...always make me smile...

Surprises that made me have to close my eyes!

Yes, these are just a few of the things that make me smile.  As we draw to the close of another year...I am counting my blessings....oh, did I mention that I RETIRED this past fall?

And now I am looking forward to all that the Lord has in store for us in the New Year.  I am actually getting excited about the possibilities...looking forward to some fun activities with friends and family...hikes with my hubby...maybe even a trip out of state or two...who knows?  God knows...

Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

   11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This little angel, a creation by one of my sons, opens her arms wide to share with us
God's message of:




May your New Year be filled with blessings and joy and many things that make YOU smile!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"The Voice said, 'Cry out!' And he said, 'What shall I cry?" Updated

This was originally posted on 12/8/2011.  I no longer work at the church where this took place, since I retired this year, and I believe the group "BarlowGirl" no longer exists, but the message of this post and the songs that were sung are still so relevant today.  Be sure to click on the links for the songs to get the full message of this post. I still think of those girls who were at the concert...and I wonder where they are today.  They would be four years older, so possibly out on their own. Lord, I pray for these young women tonight. You know where they are. I pray that You are still reaching down to them...and that perhaps they have reached up to You and have found "The Light Has Come"...May they place their hands in Yours and know that true love that only You can give.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Original Post from 2011:

Isaiah 40:6 says, "The voice said, 'Cry out!' and he (I) said, 'What shall I cry?'"

Isaiah 40:3 says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." 

Last night I attended a BarlowGirl concert at the church where I currently am employed.  Actually, I was there as a volunteer, working at the merchandise table for the BarlowGirls.  I was enjoying the concert from a little bit of a distance, watching through the sanctuary doors. The music was inspiring...the BarlowGirls are a unique blend of beauty and superb talent, with a seriously powerful message for today's generation.  However, there was something equally interesting happening in the lobby area where I was tending the "merch", as our youth pastor teasingly called it. 

One of the charitable organizations that our church supports is a ministry to teen girls at risk.  As a part of the outreach for this concert, girls from this group were invited to attend the concert at no charge.  Several of these young ladies did attend, but from their appearance and actions it was apparent to me that they were really not too interested in the concert. They kept coming out into the lobby and going from door to door and up into the balcony, supposedly looking for their "friends".  A couple of the girls came to my table, admiring the many articles for sale.  At first I was not aware of who these girls were, or where they had come from.  But I couldn't help but notice by their shabby attire and obvious piercings and numerous cuttings on their bare arms that they were troubled youth. One particular girl hung around beside me for a few minutes making small talk and saying how much she liked the concert (which she had not sat down to watch for more than five minutes), and that she liked the music, but she'd never heard of them before, and had never been to our church before. She also told me that she would like to buy something but she had given all her money to a homeless person out on the street before she came in because they needed it more than her.  Somehow I didn't quite believe her...it seemed to me that she was embarassed that she really didn't have any money and it sounded good to say that she had done something so noble with her money.  She told me that her counselor had invited her to come to the concert, and she was glad that she did.  Then her "friends" came and grabbed her and they decided to leave out the front door of the church, and I never saw them come back in.   

As I continued to listen to the music, I could hear the lyrics to so many songs that I wished these girls could have heard.  It grieved me that the very ones who needed this hope and love so much were the ones who just refused to listen.  I felt burdened and sad that I was not able to point them in the right direction. I comforted myself with the fact that I had at least been kind and listened, and I had encouraged them to go back in and find a seat to listen to the music several times...but they just could not surrender to that calling yet.    Maybe another day...I pray...they will get another chance to draw near to God and hear Him beckoning to them.   Right now they are the ones who are crying out with their very actions that they "need God to love them"...but they don't realize that is what is happening.  God is indeed calling...seeds are being planted in their hearts (I pray)...                                                         "I Need You to Love Me"  (BarlowGirl) (click on link for song)

One of the T-Shirts being sold at the "merch" table had the following saying written on it: "Be a Voice, Not an Echo"...  I like that thought..."Be a Voice"...What shall I cry out?  Isaiah 40:6-8 says,
"All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the our God stands forever."

Isaiah goes on to say in verse 11: 
"He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young."

Perhaps God will indeed gather these "lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom."  That is my prayer for the girls with the shabby attire, the obvious piercings and the numerous cuttings on their bare arms tonight. God knows who they are and where they are right now...and I believe because they have been brought near His light...His light will continue to shine on them and lead them safely home. 
"Hallelujah-Light Has Come"  (BarlowGirl)  (click on link for song)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Opening Another Advent Window (Updated)

This is a rerun of a post from a couple of years ago.  I must say that I still love to read from the devotional book "Jesus Calling" every morning, along with its companion "Jesus Today", also by Sarah Young.  I received that book from my sister as a Christmas gift that same year.  It is amazing to me to see how these little books have an appropriate message just for me every day...and then they lead me to passages in the Bible that further show me God's message for the day. This is a marvelous way to to start each day all year long, not just during the Advent season!

The original post written on 12/2/13 begins here:

If you recall reading about my "Jesus Calling Experience"  a couple of weeks ago, you will recall that I had finally responded to the "call" of Jesus to pick up the little devotional book, "Jesus Calling",  written by Sarah Young that I found in my church library...and then a dear friend said that she wanted me to have my own copy as a gift.

Well, today was the day.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with humility upon receiving a gift from someone when you felt like you should be the one giving a gift instead?
That's how I felt.

This is my Open Advent Window for today.
As we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, the Babe in the Manger,
remember that He is the Divine Gift to us, we who are so unworthy. 
But He came down to earth for us,
to rescue us from our sins,
and to save us for all eternity
to live with Him forever.

What does He ask from us?
Nothing really...except that we love Him
with all our hearts.

Here's a little song I remember hearing and singing at Christmas time:

In the Bleak Midwinter (click on title for link to song by Gloucester Cathedral Choir)

Christina Rossetti (written 1872, published posthumously in 1904)
clr gif

"In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart."

Thank you to my friend today for the wonderful gift of "Jesus Calling".  This gift is helping me to prepare my heart for Christmas.
How about you?
Is your heart ready for Christmas?
Could Jesus be "calling" you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"She Can Laugh at the Days to Come"

"She can laugh at the days to come."
Proverbs 31:25, NIV

Quite a few years ago I attempted to write a devotional booklet for women based upon the "Proverbs 31 Woman".  You know the one...that marvelous example of womanhood that many of us would love to emulate, but all too often we sadly fall short and find ourselves thinking we can never measure up to her standards.  If you are interested in seeing some of what I did write, I'll leave a few links at the end of this post. You will quickly see what I mean about not measuring up...

Anyway, before writing this post I searched back through the things I had written from Proverbs 31, and discovered that I had written something for every verse in that chapter except for this particular verse 25.  I'm not sure why I skipped over this one. The other verses were certainly more difficult in some ways...

But let's look at the complete verse...in the New International Version it says:

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."

The version of the Bible that I normally read is the New King James version, and it reads this way:

"Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come."

Either way you read it, this Proverbs 31 woman has the courage (strength) and dignity to not worry about the days to come; she can actually LAUGH and REJOICE perhaps even in the face of adversity and the unknown.  Why? Because this woman has confidence in God...and she knows that no matter what, God is with her. She need not fear the future, because she knows WHO holds her future.

As most of you are aware by now, I just recently retired.  To be quite honest, it was a risky move, financially speaking.  There are many "unknowns" in my future...but there is One constant "KNOWN"...and that is the fact that God holds my future, and therefore I can enter into this season of life with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Yes, I can "laugh at the days to come"...and with every new day of this retirement I am finding more and more ways to rejoice.  Thank you, Jesus!!

My prayer today is that other "Proverbs 31" women out there will learn how to laugh at the days to come with the confidence that God is already there...no matter what.

Now, if you want to go back and read a few of my early escapades attempting to be a "Proverbs 31 Woman"... and some other examples of this remarkable woman...check these out:

Thank you, Lord, for this powerful example of a Godly woman. Help me, Lord, 
to rejoice in all the days to come.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving, Role Reversal and "The Golden Rule" -Updated 11/25/15

This was originally written last year on the day before Thanksgiving, 11/26/14.  Here we are again, one year later, on the day before Thanksgiving...and not a whole lot has changed...We still have my mother in law with us primarily on the weekends, but this week, due to some health issues that my brother in law is experiencing, we have had her all week long. The other major change is that I just retired this past Friday, so now I am adjusting to being home all day...and she has been here as well...and it has had its challenges...but on the whole, I must say I am very thankful for the fact that she is still in pretty good physical shape for her age of 92...and that God is helping us to cope with the issues that come up due to her progressive dementia.  Sometimes you just have to find ways to laugh and be silly together...like playing with a baby doll,,,

Sometimes even my hubby gets in on the fun with the baby doll!

Or baking cookies together...(I bake, she watches and counts the cookies as they come out of the oven and tries to keep track of how many we've eaten before they even cooled down...a very good mental exercise for her...and she does surprisingly well all things considered)

Or having a tea party with a friend...

And sometimes it's fun to pat a baby's "bear" butt...and just enjoy the feel of something warm and snuggly...even if it IS a babydoll!  It brought a smile to her face...and that's worth everything... 

So here's the original post from last year...it was good for me to review this again after a particularly exasperating day.  I needed to remind myself that "Love Never Fails".

November 26, 2014:

It's the day before Thanksgiving...and there's a lot going on in my mind and heart right now. But for today, this is probably the uppermost thought, and even though it seems to be a bit of a repetitive theme for me lately...this is what's happening now.  I may elaborate on other things after we get through cooking and eating and enjoying Thanksgiving with loved ones and friends sometime later this weekend...

I just finished reading an excellent book on a subject that I've been thinking about quite a bit lately...
When Your Parent Becomes Your Child, A Journey of Faith Through My Mother's Dementia    by Ken Abraham.  One of my other blogging friends had mentioned this book and I thought.."I need to read that one right now!"  So I ordered it...actually ordered two copies...one for my family and one for my brother-in-law and his family.  Why? Because we are living it right now in our family as we are joint care-givers for my 91 year old mother-in-law...who is rapidly descending the slippery slope from being mentally present with us to drifting further and further away in a cloud of confusion, memory lapses, paranoia, anger and fear.

When I first picked up this book and started reading I was astounded. I thought Mr. Abraham was writing about my mother in law.  The similarities were amazingly much too close for comfort.  "Minnie" Abraham, Ken Abraham's mother, exhibited so many of the same symptoms that they could have been "sisters in crime"...the crime of changing into a totally different person through the sad progression of the deterioration of the mind.

This post is not intended to be a book review, however, if you are dealing with these kinds of changes in your loved one, I would heartily recommend that you read this book as well as any other information you can put your hands on.  There is a wealth of knowledge on this subject shared on the internet and I am certain many other books are available.  I appreciated Mr. Abraham's story because it was a deeply personal and honest confession of his own frustration and inadequacies in dealing with the changes he saw taking place in his mother.  However, he gave a lot of helpful information that he learned through first hand experience, which I have found especially enlightening.

I think the main thing that I am learning as we share the responsibility of caring for our loved one with my husband's brother and his family is that we have to communicate regularly with each other. There are changes taking place weekly and even daily that we need to be aware of.  Right now she is still able to be driven back and forth between our two homes on the weekends so that hopefully neither of us will  suffer caregiver burnout too quickly. But we are also realizing that this may not last much longer. As her condition continues to deteriorate we may have to enlist professional/long term assistance in one form or another.

For now we are taking things one day at a time and trying to make every moment count.    As long as she is physically able to do things in the home, we encourage her to take part in the family activities as much as possible.  Spending quality time together, cleaning up the kitchen after meals, folding laundry, setting the table...who cares if the towels and underwear aren't folded the way I always fold them?  What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things if she puts the knife, fork and spoon on the wrong side of the plate, or doesn't remember which drawer holds the silverware and which cupboard holds the plates...or if she gets confused about whether we just ate lunch or supper...she loves to feel useful as she is still contributing something to the family by her presence with us.

And truly she is.  I love to hear her humming a little song as she helps dry the dishes or as she sits in the rocking chair and chats with me while I prepare our meals. They say that music is one of the last "senses" to go from the mind...and I believe that to be true.  My mother in law still loves to listen to her favorite gospel music CD's every day and she can sing along like she is right there with them.
"Nanny" helping our son with the dishes and enjoying spending happy moments
with her #1 Grandson.  He appreciates the blessing of sharing this time with her as well.
We try hard to see the humor in some of the things that she says or does, even if it is sad that she doesn't realize what is happening to her.  However, some things aren't so funny, especially when she gets angry over the least little thing that doesn't go her way...or when she tries to cut short our visits with friends because she thinks it is time for them to go and she's tired of not being the center of attention. Or when she repeats the same things over and over and over again all day long, and to her it is like she just thought of it that very moment...but we've already had to endure the story/comments/questions too many times to count.

Patience is a virtue that sometimes wears thin. It is difficult for those closest to her to understand that our loved one really doesn't know that she's saying these things over and over again...or that her temper tantrums, negative comments about other family members and delusions are not really the product of a ninety-one year old mature Christian woman...but are the manifestations of a mind/brain that is rapidly breaking down, shriveling up, wearing out...dying.

So every day is a challenge in this journey we are traveling. As we approach Thanksgiving this week, I try to count my blessings and not dwell on the difficulties of life.  I know that someday it will be my turn to be the one that needs care...and I pray that there will be someone willing and able to go the extra mile for me as long as deemed reasonable and possible.  I try to practice "The Golden Rule"..."do unto others as you would have them do unto you..."...not expecting my mother in law to be able "do unto me" any longer...she has already done her part in loving and caring for me and my family all these years.  It is our turn to return the blessing to her...and perhaps this experience will also help the younger generation realize what their part will be in the future.

Some thoughts from the "Love" chapter of the Bible, I Corinthians 13:1-8

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a
clanging cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, 
and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and though I have all faith,
so that I could remove mountains,
but have not love,
I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body to be burned,
but have not love,
it profits me nothing.




There really isn't anything more I can add to  that...
Hug and hold your loved ones closely this Thanksgiving.  We never know when it will be the last opportunity we will have to show them how much we love them.

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever!"
Psalm 107:1

Click HERE for previous thoughts on Thanksgiving and Family traditions.

And Click HERE for previous posts about the journey we are currently on with my mother in law.